New Questions and Answers

Q. How do I cite in text two works in the same year by authors with the same surname? I have (MacDonald 1999) for both K. A. MacDonald and R. H. MacDonald, each of whom wrote an article that year. It seems awkward to refer to them as (e.g.) “R. MacDonald” when I’ve given none of the other authors a first initial.

A. It may strike you as awkward, but it is conventional in such cases to clarify by adding initials or full names if necessary. Please see CMOS 15.21: “Where two or more works by different authors with the same last name are listed in a reference list, the text citation must include an initial (or two initials or a given name if necessary).”

Q. It seems that all types of dashes are treated without spaces in Chicago. Is the use of a hyphen with spaces ever acceptable (word - word)?

A. Chicago style omits spaces around hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. There are exceptions where a single space is allowed after a hyphen or en dash:

left- and right-hand margins

nos. 1– (1980–)

Some kinds of writing (such as in some other languages, or in poetry) follow their own rules, but Chicago style never calls for spaces on both sides of a hyphen.

Q. I’m having a long debate with a writer about the following usage: “Each sister was prettier than the next.” As an editor, I say that as stated, it means that the sisters got uglier on down the line, which was not what the author intended. I say it should be “Each sister was prettier than the one before.”

A. You are right; this is a common error: it should be either “prettier than the one before” or “prettier than the last.”

Q. Our staff editing human-rights reports need help interpreting the rule re capitalization for administrative bodies (8.62).  In cases of more than one body should the first term still be capitalized, as in Ministries of Labor and Education? Would greatly appreciate your counsel.

A. Yes, that’s right; capitalize the plural.

Q. Does Chicago have any recommendations for capitalizing digital copy that will appear as part of a GUI display? I am working on a project that includes a series of steps—and subsequent error feedback—for setting up a digital camera. I am wondering if I should follow Chicago 8.157 (Principles of headline-style capitalization) or if there is something newer that applies to digital media. Thanks!

A. Headline caps are good for labels (e.g., for icons or section heads); sentence caps are better for instructions or captions that are like sentences. If you can choose only one style, sentence caps are safe for most purposes, whereas headline caps are going to look weird for any text of more than a couple of words. Click Here looks fine; Make Sure All the Calibrations Were Correctly Entered—not so much.

Q. What is the appropriate way to handle a compound formed with an abbreviation upon its first mention? For example, in “the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved delivery by unmanned aircraft,” where does the hyphen go to form the compound “FAA-approved delivery”—after (FAA) or after Administration? I would prefer to rewrite this sentence but am not able to in this instance.

A. I’m sorry, but a hyphen (or an en dash, which would be required with the spelled-out compound proper noun) may not follow a closing parenthesis. If you are not able to rewrite, you are stuck with a bad sentence.

Q. Would you capitalize both terms in “Easter Bunny”? One of my coworkers argues that we should not capitalize the “bunny.” While she grants that, for example, we would capitalize “Santa Claus,” she argues that that is the character’s proper name. The same does not apply here. We’re talking about an unnamed bunny who happens to be active on Easter; hence, “the Easter bunny.” My feeling is that we should capitalize it, as we’re not talking about just any bunny, but a specific mythological figure. I think it falls under the penumbra of 8.33 and 8.34; whether or not “Easter Bunny” is the character’s proper name, it’s certainly used as such. What say you?

A. Both arguments have merit. Both styles are perfectly understandable as naming the bunny who is active on Easter. You could flip a coin. However, “Santa Claus” appears in the two dictionaries I checked; “Easter Bunny/bunny” does not. Given that Chicago leans toward lowercasing when possible, we would opt for “Easter bunny.”

Q. Dear Chicago: I recently wrote a 7,000-word short story. In it, I included a fictional news article about a man who was injured in a train accident. I have two questions regarding how to punctuate it. (1) How is the text of this make-believe article to be set apart from the rest of the story, and (2) should it be italicized?

A. (1) Texts like this are set apart in novels in various ways; usually a book designer decides how to do it. If you’re typing a manuscript to submit to a publisher, set the newspaper article off as a block quotation. (2) Quotations are rarely italicized. Since real newspaper articles aren’t italicized, there’s no reason to make your fictional one italic.

Q. How do I cite a website page that is not available anymore? I must cite a YouTube video that is an essential part of my research, but the link is now extinct. Thank you!

A. Give the link and the date you accessed the video. Readers understand that these things come and go.

Q. I have a moral dilemma. I’m a contract editor for a consulting company whose client is a federal agency. Recently I recast the phrase “on which it depends” to “which it depends on.” An agency reviewer reversed my edit and commented “horrible grammar!” I want to keep my client and their client happy, but I also don’t want to compromise good editing principles. I quoted CMOS 5.176 to my client but got no response. How far should a diligent editor pursue an issue such as this?

A. Put your mind at rest. As an editor, you’ve done your job; the client gets the last word in matters that are negotiable. (After all, the original is not incorrect.) Second, even though the client didn’t reply, it’s likely that the strong wording of CMOS 5.176 had some effect. (“The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction. . . . Today many grammarians use the dismissive term pied-piping for this phenomenon.”) The next time the issue arises, your clued-in client might not object to being edited.

Q. Can it be considered acceptable to use endnotes for some of the chapters of an edited volume (conference proceedings) and footnotes for others? After selecting a great design for layout where notes are placed in a narrow side column, we laid out about a quarter of the text and then discovered that some chapters have such extensive notes that they need to be made into chapter endnotes. We don’t want to change the overall design for a number of reasons. What we’d like to do is retain the side notes in the chapters for which they work, and use chapter endnotes in the chapters where side notes don’t work. Is it more important to maintain consistency in this situation than to preserve our design?

A. Your proposal preserves neither consistency nor design. If a design doesn’t serve the work, it should be modified until it works. I’m sorry that you’re left with this dilemma! A more thorough review of the entire manuscript before choosing a design would have prevented it. Readers are better served by consistency in collections like this; otherwise they find themselves constantly searching for the notes.

Q. How would you punctuate factor(s) to show both singular and plural possessive? The sentence reads “This results in the factor(s) outcome(s) being misread.”

A. The factor(’s/s’) outcome(s)? The factor’s/factors’ outcome/outcomes? The factor(s)’(s) outcome(s)? The possibilities are all so fun it’s hard to choose just one! Seriously, just rewrite the sentence. This isn’t copping out—your sentence is hopeless. Often it’s not even necessary to indicate the singular/plural alternatives. “This results in misreading factor outcomes” applies to one or more factors.

January Q&A

Q. Hello! Is the following sentence grammatically correct? “Good news is, at Microsoft we are here to help!”

A. Your sentence is casual—almost slangy—because it leaves out words for the listener/reader to fill in: “The good news is that at Microsoft we are here to help!” Although your sentence is technically grammatical, it doesn’t reflect formal English grammar. Of course, in advertising not many people expect formal English grammar.

Q. My 15th edition (7.18) cites “Kansas’s legislature” as an example, whereas 7.19 has “the United States’ role” as another. Am I correct to use “Paris’s sights,” “Philippines’ sights,” and “Seychelles’ sights” under 7.19? Could I also conclude that 7.18 is used mainly for states (like Kansas and Texas) in a country (like the US) and 7.19 strictly for countries?

A. The distinction is not between states and countries, but between names with a singular form (Paris, Kansas, Cyprus, Barbados) and nouns that take a plural form although they are singular in meaning (United States, Seychelles, Chicago Heights, Philippines). The singular forms make the possessive with the addition of an apostrophe and an s (Paris’s, Kansas’s, Cyprus’s, Barbados’s); for nouns with a plural form, add only the apostrophe for the possessive (United States’, Seychelles’, Philippines’).

Q. One of our publishers wants to prepare the index for a book from the terms the author has provided before the copyediting is done. This is quite unusual considering the revisions the book will go through at later stages that will affect the page numbers. More importantly, what if some of the terms are edited or deleted during copyediting? What do you think we should tell them?

A. Tell them what you’ve told us. It’s unwise to prepare an index until the book pagination is set in stone. The amount of checking and editing needed to finalize the index after pagination would be nearly as much work as the initial preparation of the index. I suggest you point them to The Chicago Manual of Style 16.102: “For a printed work, the indexer must have in hand a clean and complete set of proofs before beginning to index. . . . For a journal volume, the work may begin when the first issue to be indexed has been paginated.” The terms your writer compiled may be useful in preparing the index, but the actual work should wait.

Q. Should a Chicago Manual–style research article be double-spaced, and should the footnotes be 12pt type? This is a journal submission.

A. Yes. Chicago style for all manuscripts is to double-space everything, and 12pt type is the industry standard.

Q. Should the names of certain organizations, such as the New York Times, be italicized whether they are referred to as a company or as a publication? For instance, if a sentence says “Tuesday’s debate, which was hosted by the New York Times,” would it be appropriate to set the name in regular type because the company is hosting the debate, rather than the publication? Or is it best to set all instances of “the New York Times” and similar names in italics to maintain consistency? More examples where this issue comes into play:

We returned to Real Clear Politics’ database and found eight surveys . . .

A 2013 poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News found . . .

A. You have the right idea—italics for the newspaper, roman for the company. Consistency is secondary. Keep in mind that sometimes either will do. If you have to agonize to decide, just make them all italic.

Q. My editors cannot seem to agree on whether to use in or to in the following (and similar) sentences: (1) The bill (or law) makes technical changes in the insurance statutes; (2) The bill (or law) makes technical changes to the insurance statutes. What is the difference between “changes in” and “changes to,” and how does one determine which construction to use?

A. There is no difference, and there’s no need for consistency. If your editors are fiddling with these, they might be overstepping. If there is some arcane legal difference in meaning, they should be able to tell you what reference book or style manual or dictionary supports their decisions. It’s not Chicago style!

Q. “Bigger than whole states in America’s lower 48.” CMOS seems to advise lowercasing lower, but it’s also a common phrase and almost looks like, if spelled out, it should be italicized or capitalized—or both. I could use your help. Thanks.

A. Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary styles it “Lower 48,” and in the absence of advice in CMOS, we follow M-W.

Q. I am alphabetizing book titles in our elementary resource library. Would the title In the Days of Missions and Ranchos be filed under I for In or D for Days? I think it should be I but our district office said D.

A. If the folks in the district office have a system that they follow for the sake of consistency and they say to file such a title under D, file it under D and note for future reference that prepositions at the beginning of titles are ignored in alphabetizing. If there is no district-wide set of rules for alphabetizing and you wish to follow Chicago, alphabetize your book under I (after running it by the district office). Please see CMOS 16.53 (Indexing titles beginning with a preposition): “Unlike articles, prepositions beginning a title always remain in their original position and are never dropped, whether in English or foreign titles—nor are they ignored in alphabetizing.”

Q. In this example {The stationery is described in John R. MacArthur’s book The Selling of “Free Trade,” p. 217}, is it right for the quotes that apply only to “Free Trade” to fall after the comma? And if so, should the comma revert to roman but the quotes remain in italics?

A. Commas always go inside the quotation marks. Punctuation is formatted to match the surrounding text, so a comma that falls within an italic title should also be italic.

Q. An author suggests teachers “videotape” themselves presenting a lesson so they can watch and critique their lesson later. I tried changing “videotape” to “video record,” but I think that’s too awkward. And just “record” could mean audio only. Do you think I should blaze a trail for retaining the technically inaccurate “videotape”? Seriously, what term will we use down the road when we’re using who-knows-what technology? Perhaps we should have dug in heels with “film” as a verb. “Film yourself teaching”?

A. Blaze away; we’ll see how many follow. When an expression develops a clear generic meaning and widespread usage in nontechnical contexts, however, it has the potential to outlive its literal meaning. After all, if we can “print” to PDF and “cc” someone on an e-mail, I guess we can videotape a lesson.

Q. I understand 5.91 to mean that adjectives modified by adverbs ending in -ly are always open. But what about instances such as “provide developmentally appropriate information”? My instinct is not to hyphenate, but I don’t think developmentally is an adverb here, so I’m not sure if the always-open rule applies.

A. Developmentally is indeed an adverb modifying the adjective appropriate. It’s exactly the kind of situation we’re referring to in 5.91. Chicago style is not to hyphenate.